Noise pollution – Assessment and Control

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Kalpana Palkhiwala**

Noise pollution or environmental noise is displeasing to human beings and animals. Unwanted sound can damage physiological and psychological health of humans. It can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus which leads to forgetfulness, severe depression and at times panic attacks, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.

Noise also has a detrimental effect on animals by causing stress, increasing risk of mortality by changing the delicate balance in predator/prey detection and avoidance. Impact of noise on animal life can also result in the reduction of usable habitat which in the case of endangered species may be part of the path to extinction. One of the best known cases of damage caused by noise pollution is the death of certain species of whales, brought by about the loud sound of military sonar.

The source of most outdoor noise worldwide is mainly construction and transportation systems, including motor vehicle, aircraft and rail noise. Poor urban planning has also given rise to noise pollution, caused by closed proximity of industrial and residential buildings.

Indoor and outdoor noise pollution sources include car alarms, emergency service sirens, mechanical equipment, fireworks, compressed air horns, groundskeeping equipment, appliances, lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, electric megaphones etc,.

Noise also makes species communicate louder, which is called Lombard vocal response. Scientists and researchers have conducted experiments that show whales song length is longer when submarine-detectors are on.

Noise was included in the definition of the ‘air pollutants’ under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The same was followed by the notification of ambient noise standards under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Air Act, 1981. This enabled the Central, State Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees to take suitable action against sources causing noise pollution. Subsequently, the following source specific noise standards have been brought out:

• Noise Standards for motor vehicles: These standards are applicable at the manufacturing stage, being implemented by the Ministry of Surface Transport

. • Noise Standards for diesel generator sets: The revised notification prescribes noise standards for diesel generator sets (upto 1000 KVA) at manufacturing stage. The CPCB is the nodal agency for its implementation with the help of various Certification Agencies. The revised notification also prescribes noise standards for diesel gensets manufactured before 01.01.2005 and/or larger than 1000 KVA.

• Noise Standards for fire-crackers: These are applicable at the manufacturing stage. The Department of Explosives (now known as The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization) is the implementation agency for these standards.

In addition to the above standards, the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 have been notified for regulation of ambient noise standards, regulation of noise due to loudspeakers etc. under these Rules, the Competent Authority for regulation of the Noise includes District Magistrate, Police Commissioner or any other Officer not below the rank of the Deputy Superintendent of Police. Apart from the provisions under the Air Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Rules under the Factories Act, 1948 prescribe maximum permissible noise exposure levels for work zone areas.

A National Committee on Noise Pollution Control has been constituted to advise Central Pollution Control Board in noise pollution related matters. The CPCB and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) are monitoring ambient noise levels in areas in Delhi. Noise monitoring has also been initiated in Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and other cities by the concerned State Pollution Control Boards and PCCs on festive occasions.

*Deputy Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.

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